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By: RSC Editorial Team

September 2, 2023

Everything You Need To Know About Herpes Scars

Herpes simplex virus (HSV) causes sores around the genital region or mouth during outbreaks. These lesions can sometimes blister open, leaving you with scarring risks. Luckily, you can prevent herpes scars or treat them using various dermatological methods. 

At Rapid STD Testing, we help you seek support for different sexually transmitted infections. Below, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about herpes scars, including causes, prevention, and treatment options. If you have symptoms, order a rapid STD test today or visit a local clinic. 

Understanding Herpes-Induced Scarring

Herpes is a common infection caused by herpes simplex virus. Two main types of HSV exist: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 typically causes oral herpes, resulting in sores around the lips and mouth, while HSV-1 typically causes genital herpes affecting the genitals, anus, and groin area. 

Both forms of HSV can overlap, spreading to either area. Herpes is highly contagious, as it transmits via skin-to-skin contact. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 67% of people younger than 50 have HSV-1, and 491 million have HSV-2. 

There is no cure for herpes. Herpes lesions come in waves, called outbreaks. Outbreaks can last a few weeks and may occur every few months or years, depending on the person. 

Herpes sores do not always cause scars. Herpes-induced scarring usually occurs when the sores develop into blistering wounds. The following can cause herpes sores to break open:

  • Rubbing against clothes
  • Picking
  • Scratching
  • Aggressive washing
  • Squeezing

If you mess with the sores too much, they can break open and develop into a wound that will take much longer to heal. Over time, the blister will turn into a scab and then a scar. 

The scar will be categorized by skin discoloration, unusual lines, and a slightly different texture. If you continue picking at the area as it scabs over, you will prolong the healing process and worsen the scar.

In rare scenarios, you can develop scars even when your herpes sores do not turn into blisters. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation occurs when your body produces too much melanin as an immune response to inflammation. Essentially, your immune system may trigger excess melanin production while fighting the herpes virus, leaving you with faint scars where you had sores.

People with deeper skin complexions may face higher risks of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Reducing inflammation in the area with cold compresses can help prevent scarring. 

Herpes scarring also comes with health implications. As your body attempts to heal from the blisters, you will face higher risks of infections, especially with your immune system already compromised. You must take extra care to keep the area clean and dry. 

Treatment for Herpes Scars

The treatment for herpes scars will depend on the severity. Minor scars may fade away on their own over time and with home remedies, while deep scarring may require medical treatment. Your provider will examine the area to help you choose the right topical treatments or procedures. 

The following treatments can help herpes scars:

  • Laser therapy: Laser therapy is a popular procedure used in dermatology practices that treats scarring by removing the top layer of skin with a concentrated beam of light. 
  • Microdermabrasion: Microdermabrasion is a form of resurfacing that gently removes the top layer of skin by exfoliating dead cells. In turn, microdermabrasion can remove scarring or lessen the appearance of scars. 
  • Skin care creams: Your dermatologist may also recommend topical creams that can promote collagen production or reduce inflammation to lessen scar appearance. Popular scar creams often contain corticosteroids or silicone. 
  • Chemical peels: Chemical peels apply a thin layer of chemical solution to the outer layer of your skin to remove damaged skin cells. The process often requires longer, more painful healing times and is only reserved for specific patients. Chemical peels can help with older, lighter scars but may worsen scars that are still forming. 
  • Skin grafts: Skin grafts remove a patch of skin from one area of the body and place it over the scarred area. Like chemical peels, skin grafts are typically only for patients with severe scarring as they require much longer healing times. 
  • Excisions: An excision is when the doctor removes the scar entirely. This option only makes sense if the sore leaves you with a large, raised scar. The excision procedure may leave its own scar, though you should no longer have the raised bump or discomfort.  

Home Remedies for Herpes Scars 

If you only have a few light areas of discoloration, your doctor will likely recommend trying out some home remedies rather than the more invasive options above. The top home remedies for genital herpes scars include the following:

  • Vitamin E: Vitamin E in topical form may treat burns and scars by reducing inflammation. Note that little chemical research supports its effectiveness. If you want to try it, massage it into the affected area for three to five minutes daily. 
  • Coconut oil: Coconut oil contains antioxidants and can strengthen your skin’s moisture barrier, potentially helping reduce the appearance of scars over time. Like vitamin E, little research supports this claim. If you want to try it, you must warm the oil first, let it cool, then apply it to your skin one to two times daily. 
  • Aloe vera: Aloe contains a cooling agent, which is why you can commonly find it in drugstore sunburn relief products. Aloe vera may rejuvenate your skin’s health and reduce scarring hyperpigmentation. When applying aloe to your scars, let it sit on the affected area for at least 30 minutes before washing off with warm water. 

If you’ve never used vitamin E, coconut oil, or aloe vera before, do a patch test before applying the product to your scars. You don’t know how your skin will respond to the new substance. Rub a small amount on the top of your forearm and wait 24 hours before washing off and proceeding with the original instructions. 

Preventing Herpes Scars

You can often prevent herpes scars by minimizing the formation of sores during outbreaks. While you cannot prevent outbreaks entirely, you can treat sores so they don’t break open into blisters. Preventing herpes scars revolves around treating the skin carefully so it can heal after the outbreak resolves. 

We recommend the following to help avoid herpes scars during an outbreak:

  • Wash gently: Carefully wash the sores with warm water and an unscented soap daily. Once done, pat the area dry with a clean towel. Be sure not to rub the sores during this process.  
  • Moisturize: Moisturizing agents can prevent the sores from cracking or scarring. Select a mild, fragrance-free moisturizer, like Aquaphor, and apply only when the skin feels dry. Do not apply the moisturizer to open wounds. 
  • Apply cold compresses: Cold compresses can help the area feel less itchy and painful, so you’re less likely to scratch. Be sure to clean any cloth or ice packs you use before applying them to the area. Apply a cold compress for 15 minutes a few times daily to reduce inflammation, pain, and itchiness. 
  • Avoid scratching or picking: Scratching and picking causes sores to break open into blisters, which can scar later on. Avoid touching the sores at all times unless you’re washing or applying medication. Touching the area can introduce dangerous bacteria that increase infection risks. 
  • Wear loose garments: Tight clothes can rub against the sores, causing irritation. The rubbing may also prolong the healing process and cause some sores to break open into blisters. Try to wear looser clothing during outbreaks to prevent further irritation. 
  • Cover the area: While loose clothing can help prevent irritation, you don’t want to leave the area exposed if you have open wounds. If any sores have broken into open wounds, cover the area with a bandage to lock out bacteria. You may also choose to cover the area to prevent friction between the sores and your clothing. 
  • Use OTC medications: You may use various over-the-counter cold sore creams or medications to accelerate healing. Speak with your doctor for more information on which medications will work best for your condition. 
  • Use your antiviral medication as directed: During a herpes outbreak, your doctor will likely prescribe some form of antiviral medication or other prescription to help your body fight the virus. Be sure to take all prescriptions as directed to beat the outbreak as quickly as possible. Visiting your doctor as soon as you notice signs of an outbreak can help you get ahead of sores before they progress into large blisters that may cause scars. 

Living With Herpes 

After receiving a positive herpes diagnosis, you may feel overwhelmed, shocked, and scared. So, what should you do?

The following are our top tips for living with herpes:

  • Discuss options with your doctor: You’ll want to learn about your treatment options as soon as you receive a positive diagnosis. Your doctor may recommend various antiviral medications or creams if you have active sores. 
  • Learn how herpes transmits: Next, learn about how herpes spreads to others so you can avoid transmitting it to your partner. Herpes transmits through skin-to-skin contact, so you must use barrier methods and avoid sex when you have open wounds. 
  • Speak with your sexual partner: After learning of your diagnosis, you should find time to have an open and honest conversation with your partner so they can get tested and seek treatment as well. Be sure to provide all the information you’ve learned, as they’ll likely have many questions.
  • Seek support: Remember you’re not alone. If you ever need someone to talk to, you can turn to support groups, family members, friends, or therapists.
  • Get tested regularly: You should get tested for STIs regularly and urge your partner to do the same so you can prioritize your health and stay on top of treatment options. You can order a 10-panel STD test from Rapid STD Testing or visit a local clinic. 

What you shouldn’t do after a herpes diagnosis is blame yourself or feel negatively. You also shouldn’t have sex without using a barrier.  

Preventing Herpes Outbreaks

You cannot always prevent outbreaks, though you can try boosting your immune system to keep sores at bay for as long as possible. Our top tips for preventing outbreaks include the following:

  • Prioritize your sleep each night
  • Eat healthy, nutritious foods
  • Reduce your stress levels
  • Avoid long exposure to sunlight
  • Consider using lubricant during sex

Keep in mind that hormonal fluctuations, common colds, and bodily trauma can trigger herpes outbreaks. You may be unable to avoid everything, like your monthly menstrual cycles. Luckily, you can try to eat well and keep your immune system healthy to prolong the time between each outbreak. 

Prevent the Spread by Getting Tested Today

Herpes is an incredibly common STI that causes sores across the genitals or mouth. If you don’t know how to treat the sores properly, they may break open into blisters that become scars. Luckily, many treatment options exist for herpes scars. 

Whether you have herpes, think you may have symptoms, or just want to stay on top of your health, you’ve come to the right place. Regular STI screening is the best way to catch infections before they worsen. Order same-day STD testing from Rapid STD Testing, visit a local screening clinic, or call our team with any questions. 

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By: RSC Editorial Team
September 2, 2023

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